Latest global cost of living rankings show just how economical China really is. China Rising Radio Sinoland 200117


By Jeff J. Brown

Pictured above: let the coffee shop and bar debates begin!. Statistics like these are always fun and get people riled up. For 2020, you have to go all the way down to the bottom half of this list to get the first Chinese city, Shanghai, at #235 out of 440 surveyed.


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The latest global ranking for cost of living, comparing 440 cities has just come out. All six of the Chinese cities surveyed, and they are the most expensive ones on the Mainland, rank in the bottom half of the full list ( Here is how the Chinese cities surveyed stack up,

Ex-Mainland China:

#44: Hong Kong

#171: Taipei

Mainland China:

#235: Shanghai

#261: Beijing (where we lived for 13 years)

#268: Shenzhen (where we lived for three years)

#289: Guangzhou

#293: Nanjing

#300: Chengdu

Even Bangkok, Thailand, a country that is supposed to be “inexpensive”, comes in at #211. My wife and I recently moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and shocker of shocker, it ranks #254, which is more expensive than all the cities in Mainland China, except Shanghai! Hanoi, Vietnam and Chengdu, China are both comparable, at #298 and #300, respectively, but Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (HCMC) is cheaper, at #321. HCMC is in the neighborhood of Manila (#309) and Cebu (#319), Philippines.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which is supposed to be one of the cheapest countries in Asia to live, is sandwiched between Shanghai and Beijing, at #253. Indonesia fares well, with Jakarta (#265), Bandung (#352) and Yogyakarta (#373). Malaysia hangs in there with the capital, Kuala Lumpur (#280) and the Chinese enclave island, Penang (#291). Rounding out the rest of Southeast Asia, (Rangoon) Myanmar was not surveyed.

As I have reported frequently (, Hong Kong is one of the biggest rip-off places in the world to live and visit, ranking #44. Taipei, in Taiwan Province, is well above China’s most expensive city, Shanghai, ranking #171. No wonder almost 5% of Taiwan’s people, about 1,000,000, have immigrated to China.

In the rest of Eastern Asia South Korea, Japan and Singapore are all in the Global Top 33, with Asian Russian cities being very low cost by comparison, all less than #300 Chengdu.

When you start to compare China’s cost of living to the United States, it gets to be a bad joke. The cheapest US city, El Paso, Texas, ranks #221, which is more costly than “pricey” Shanghai (#235). Lemme see, would I rather live in world class, cosmopolitan Shanghai, or gun, crime and drug infested El Paso? Don’t get me started!

Shanghai is even cheaper than the lowest cost cities in Europe, all in the eastern half. Again, Shanghai, or war and Nazi ravaged Ternopil and Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine? I’ll have to think about that one! Then, go to Western Europe and comparing China becomes laughable, with the latter being such a good deal. I won’t waste any ink on than one. Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) ranks no lower than #135.

The only areas that consistently rank below China are India, Asian Russia, a handful of African cities and some second-tier cities in Central and South America. Surprisingly, Turkey looks to be a bargain as well, with its five ranked cities being lower cost than China’s.

So, as much as my Chinese friends like to grumble about rising costs, their living standards are seriously better than much of the rest of the world. Why, might you non-Chinese ask?

China’s universal health care and still low medical costs, retirement pensions; K-12 public education and free- to very low university costs; sky-high home ownership levels and savings rates, coupled with low personal debt; low-cost, world class public transportation; cheap secondary services, like internet and mobile phone plans; and low-cost, public utilities for starters. This does not even factor in China’s very low levels of crime, violence and illegal drugs, so you can safely visit and spend time in a couple of gazillion public parks and excellent museums that saturate every city and across the countryside. Nor, does it hurt that household income has been doubling every ten years for the last 40 years.

Now, maybe I can sweet talk my wife into moving back to Shenzhen!

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Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History



JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post

Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and BIG Red Book on China (2020). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTubeStitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]

Jeff can be reached at China Rising, je**@br***********.com, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (Jeff_Brown-44_Days) and Whatsapp: +86-13823544196.

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